The Art of Running in the Rain

"To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift." -Prefontaine


speech language pathology

Helping The Picky Toddler With Meal Time

I rarely bring my speech/language pathology training into the blog, but I’m just so proud about what I’ve done for Mira in this last week (and how it’s impacted meal time) that I felt it was too exciting not to share. Here’s a little bit of the back story: As many do, our toddler is having a hard time with food. She used to eat pretty much anything and everything that we put in front of her (or at least would try it), and then about a month ago all that changed. We would get ‘no, no, no’ or ‘all done’ and the dish/bowl would be pushed off her tray onto our table (at least not the floor, amiright?). This is a super frustrating phase, and it’s especially frustrating when you love cooking. As you know from the blog and from my stories both Dave and I really enjoy cooking, and seeing Mira take a bite of something, make a gagging face, and say ‘all done’ can be soul crushing.


I decided that rather than lament and get frustrated with every meal I would try something that would give her autonomy within a structure of our choosing. I decided to make some ‘Individual Graphic Symbols.’ I always refer to these as ‘PECS,’ but I know that technically that’s not accurate as PECS is a specific communication system, and what I’m doing is much less structured. When you are using ‘Individual Graphic Symbols’ for an individual with a communication disorder you are using a low tech augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) system to help the person express themselves. They may not have the spoken word to communicate what they want, but they have the pictures (and sometimes that awareness comes first). For us we wanted to give Mira access to images of a variety of foods that she likes to eat, giving her the independence to choose what she wants. At the same time, we needed to keep these choices within a small set that we are willing to make and/or have on hand at a given time.


When I was working in early intervention many parents expressed concern that using an AAC system (e.g., baby sign, PECS, Individual symbols) would negatively impact their child’s use of speech and I am here to say that that is NOT the case. Research has shown us again and again that using these supplemental systems only helps facilitate language development.


Mira can say many of these words already and if she doesn’t know them on her own she will readily imitate; however, she is unable to recall most of these foods independently when sat down at a table and asked what she wants to eat (as I wouldn’t expect many 18 month olds to be able to do). So having these images helps her recall things she’s already seen and helps her associate the food with the word.

Here’s what you need to make a an individual graphic system: a mini binder (or large, depending on how far you want to go with your food choices), laminator (I have this one), laminating sheets, velcro fasteners, couple pieces of white paper, printer (I have this one), and a word processing system.


Assembly: First you will need to make a list of the items that you want pictures of (I find that this list is ever expanding). Then you will search for images of the items you’ve listed and copy and paste those images onto your word processing system. Once the image is on the word processing system resize it to be about 1.5-2.” Continue until you’ve filled the entire sheet, and then print. Cut each picture out and arrange them on your laminating sheet (making sure there is space between each picture so the laminate will completely seal around the image). Send the laminating sheet through the laminator and let it cool. Now it’s time to make the pages of the binder (where the images will be fastened to), cut an 8″ x 11″ paper in half and send them both through the laminator. Apply the velcro hook to the page and the loop to the images. Organize your images however you choose (I tried to separate meal type, snacks, and fruits/veggies).


The ultimate goal of giving her autonomy when it comes to food choices has definitely been accomplished. I can feel the tension releasing at meal time, we are worrying less that she will never eat vegetables and she is enjoying making her selection.

mira choosing

As with all things related to raising a child, this phase will pass and we will be onto some new challenge, but I hope that I can always find a middle ground between bringing what I’ve read, learned or heard to the table for Mira and accepting who she is as a human.

Be well.

Motivation, tortillas, and toys!!!!

Hope everyone had a great weekend!  Mine was a mixture of all different kinds of amazing.  Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Dave made his ‘Tortilla espanola” and it was delicious!  Here’s a peek at it:
Hand model = Tara
I’ll post the recipe and his process in an upcoming post. (Hand model = Tara)

Tara came and we had a wondrous time: cribbage was played, snacks were consumed, dog parks were adventured to, breakfast was eaten, and so much more.

  • I’m going to admit to you all that it was REALLY hard to motivate myself for the 9 mile run on Sunday.  As I felt the lack of motivation, I turned to my regulars (Pinterest, runners world, blogs etc.) to try to find a little somethin’ somethin’ to help me pump up my jam, but nothing was doing it.  I’m thankful to have Dave giving me a little extra inspiration; however, I want to be able to muster it all on my own (you know, I have to run a long run without him).  Now I turn it to you readers, what do you do to motivate yourself for a workout?  Do those “reasons to be fit” images do it for you?
    The trail I found, it kept me going 🙂

    I will admit that the following quote really does help me (and I thought about it sunday): “You only regret the workouts you don’t do” -not sure who said it, but it’s all over Pinterest and runners world

  • Last, but definitely not leasts, our friends held a ‘Game of Thrones’ season premier party and it was AMAZING!  The hosts went above and beyond and made Westeros style food (they even had mulled wine).  Everything was delicious and we watched the show with happy full bellies.

Well that’s it for my weekend.


I wanted to share a little bit about the other part of my life, my job.  As I mentioned in my about I’m a speech language pathologist.  I work part time as an early intervention specialist with a particular interest in Autism.  I also work part time as the owner of a private practice, “Little Peeps, inc.” (  Today I wanted to share with everyone my four favorite early intervention materials:


bubbles1.) Bubbles. Can’t say enough about the amazing power of bubbles!  First of all, the phrase “ready, set….” (let the child fill in ‘go’), is the most amazing language facilitation technique I’ve ever encountered. Keep in mind that you may need to use the phrase until you think you just can’t take it anymore.  Some of the important early developing skills I’ve seen bubbles elicit include: joint attention, turn taking, requesting, commenting, and exclamations.  Not to mention all the early developing sounds: /m/ (more), /b/ (blow, bubbles), /p/ (pop), /d/ (dip).  Lastly, WHO DOESN’T LOVE BUBBLES????


play food2.) Toy food. Pretend play is such an important skill!  It’s great to work on feeding others, feeding self, cutting food, making meals, etc.  I feel like the one thing that people don’t always realize about pretend food is just how much vocabulary you can use with it.  For example, you can talk about what it tastes, smells, and feels like.  You can introduce words that are related to the food: pot, pan, spoon, fork, knife, sink, stove, etc.  It’s also a great opportunity to just follow your child’s lead.  See what they want to explore, go with it, and expand on what they’ve said.


plastic container3.) Clear Plastic Container. Okay, okay, I know, this isn’t really a toy.  But if you have a game (e.g., Mr. potato head, puzzle, doll house), and you keep all the little items in a plastic container then your child will have to ask for them.  Now we’ve got some requesting going on.  You could even place the plastic container up on a shelf and see if they will point at it to request.  Once they have the container (which they hopefully cannot open), wait and see if they ask you to “open,” or say “help.”  A skill that might come before saying “help” would be handing the toy to you (it’s the nonverbal version of saying “help”).  Oh I could go on for days about the amazingness of containers and, in general, keeping most toys out of reach (to encourage requesting), but I’ll leave it there for now.


board book4.) Books. I bet you thought I was going to say the iPad? Well I do love the iPad (hey maybe I’ll do a post on my favorite therapy apps), but nothing beats a good book!  Board books are the best for this age.  I like to let my kiddos pick from a set of two (choices are another great way to elicit language).  I like to ask some simple wh– questions (what, where); however, if answering questions is difficult then I may prompt with a phrase (e.g., “I see a”).  I love bringing stuff to my mouth to show the child what the word looks like on my mouth, it’s more fun when I have props that go along with the book.  I’d say the two biggest things I adjust with this age is SAYING LESS, and WAITING.


That’s it for now.


Be well.


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